I am happy to say that my new lawnmower is actually almost pleasant to use. The combination of “pleasant” and lawnmower must be taken with a grain of salt—as my experiences with my old lawnmower were never pleasant. After two previous repairs, when the side discharge guard came off, it was time for the old mower to go. I was able to find someone in the neighborhood who valued the engine enough to pay me $10 for the thing. At least I did not have to send it out in bulk trash, so I was somewhat happy about that. It was out of my shed and out of my life.
As I was researching mowers, I discovered that there have been some significant improvements in the emissions standards for small engines such as those on lawnmowers. Conveniently, the last of these standards went into effect for the 2012 model year, precisely when I was looking for a new mower. California led the way (no surprise) and the EPA followed with their own standards based upon the California rules. Probably the best thing I saw in all my research was the “complies with California Emissions Standards’ sticker plastered on the Murray mower in Walmart.
I figured if a mower met California standards, and also the EPA’s, the emissions (and probably noise) were as good as they could be. I learned that this meant I needed to look for a mower eligible to be sold in all 50 states. At Sears and Home Depot I saw some perfectly good mowers—and then I saw another mower—same models, but these were labeled California-compliant. In this case 50 (states) is really much better than 49 (states). As an added bonus, the particular Briggs and Stratton engine I got (550ex) was built in the United States.
I ended up buying a California compliant Craftsman 21 inch 140cc mower. I am pleased to report that I am very happy with it. First, it started out of the box on the first pull. The other mower often took at least 3 or 4 pulls. It is lighter and much more maneuverable than my old one—I can even steer it with one hand! And, I have yet to detect a single speck of black smoke emanating from the mower. With the old one, if I did not see the black smoke, it wasn’t working. The old mower’s engine liked to backfire a lot also. I guess it just wanted to provide me a counterpoint serenade in case I did not like the tonality of the engine’s whine as I mowed away. But I really prefer the relative lack of volume from my new mower.I am actually glad my old mower broke down again. Admittedly, I am not real happy about spending the money for the new mower, but at least I can breathe better when I mow now than before. The new mower is also far quieter than the old one. The newer less powerful mower is also actually easier to use than the older self-propelled one. The 20 missing pounds makes a huge difference—and I’ve learned did not really need the extra power the old one had anyways. So for about $200, I managed to reduce my environmental impact while cutting my grass in a quieter fashion than before. That was money very well spent.